George will go down in history as the man who destroyed Indy-car racing
Tony George....his I am Indy slogan may go down in history as the dumbest slogan ever invented. Ironically the man who singlehandedly destroyed IndyCar Racing has been run out of town by his own family. He has no control over Indy anymore.
No matter how true the statement actually is, Tony George will go down in history as the man who effectively destroyed Indy-car racing.
Since George inherited leadership of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1989 at the age of 29, Indy-car racing went from being a successful sport on the rise to a struggling, directionless entity, dwarfed in this country by stock car racing and virtually invisible in the overall sports spectrum.
Even the Indianapolis 500, the powerful trump card that George used in an attempt to gain overall control of Indy-style racing, is a shadow of its former self, a poor second cousin to NASCAR's Daytona 500 in terms of impact and prestige.
Fueled by an enticing combination of veteran American drivers with names like Andretti, Unser and Mears and an incoming wave of international Formula One stars including Emerson Fittipaldi and Nigel Mansell, Indy car combined the best elements of traditional American oval racing and F1 and reached its peak from 1990 to 1995. By every measurable statistic -- little things like sponsorship, attendance and television ratings -- it was a match domestically for NASCAR and starting to worry F1 on the world stage.
Which means that George's decision in 1994 to create the Indy Racing League as a competing alternative to the existing CART IndyCar World Series could not have come at a worse time.
The formation of the IRL, which began staging races in 1996, sparked a 13-year battle for control of Indy-car racing and ultimately led to a mass exodus by fans, sponsors and manufacturers. NASCAR's impressive growth in that period almost exactly coincided with Indy car's decline.
With all of the key components in the sport except the Indy 500, CART should have put the IRL out of business by the late '90s. When it failed and most of the CART teams switched allegiance to the IRL between 2002 and 2004, George and his series should have landed a knockout punch. More at ESPN.com
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